Deeper Hope:

An Abiding Virtue

This book explores the meaning -- and application -- of Christian Hope. It takes the fuzzy concept of Hope and reveals it in everyday settings



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The Answers Await The Right Questions.

It's a really old joke:

Once there was a boy sitting on a porch, with a dog next to him. A salesman approached the porch and asked the boy, “Does your dog bite?”

“Nope,” said the boy.

The salesman stepped on the porch to ring the doorbell and the dog viciously bit his leg. “I thought you said your dog didn’t bite!” screamed the salesman.

“My dog doesn’t bite,” said the boy. “But that’s not my dog.”

Sometimes asking the right question can make all the difference.

One of the great obstacles in becoming a follower of Jesus is learning to ask the right questions. The disciples wanted to know who among them was the greatest. The Pharisees wanted to know by what authority Jesus did his powerful works. Pontius Pilate wanted to know, “What is truth?” even as Truth Himself stood facing him. It’s clear they all missed the point. We can, too.

The questions we bring to Jesus can make a big difference in our journey of transformation. We live in a religious culture that craves correct answers, but what if we place correct answers above a relationship with God? There’s nothing wrong with correct answers: we won’t get very far believing that two plus two equals twenty-two--but you can do the math all day long and still not know God.

“There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles and doctrines of Christ . . . strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives.”  ~ A.W. Tozer
What Tozer wrote in the early 1960’s is even more acute today. We come to God with our list of questions, eager to hear the answers we think are important. We have insisted that God speak to our values rather than hearing what is on his heart. Knowledge is easier to grasp. We long to master a subject, and in so doing have made Jesus the subject and ourselves the master.
As a result we have valued knowledge over experience and relationship. Yet there is a kind of knowledge that comes only from experience. It’s the difference between studying the physics of a curve ball and learning to hit one. For many Western Christians it is easier to relate to a book (the Bible) than to experience relationship with the Lord Himself. One reason we reduce evangelism to the narrow message of “Jesus died for your sins” is that it does not require relationship with Jesus. The Great Commission (to be a disciple and make disciples) is not academic, it is relational--toward God and then toward others.
Do we really want to know Jesus, or simply know about him? How long would it take to know him? Consider these amazing words from the Apostle Paul, who had walked with Jesus for decades when he wrote:
I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ . . . I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3: 8 & 10 (I omitted verse 9 in order to emphasize Paul’s point.)
Paul still desired to know Jesus more and more after two decades--how much more is there for me to experience? Paul was not hungry for doctrine about Jesus. He wanted Jesus.
Jesus understood the powerful attraction of religious doctrine when he said, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” He spoke to religiously-minded people and concluded, “yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5: 39 - 40) Correct doctrine is important, but it is not the reality. Correct doctrine is a useful map, but we should never mistake it for the actual territory it describes. It is the doorstep, not the door. The menu, not the meal. It is the skeleton, not the living body.
The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord. Love is relational and experiential--and yes, love depends upon the truth as well. We can take a lesson from our own children: we want them to love and trust us, but we do not require that they understand us in every respect. Even when they repeat our words back to us it does not guarantee that they understand what we've said. In many cases the understanding will come years, even decades, after we are gone.
What questions do we bring to the Lord? What questions do we bring to the scripture? The answer waits upon the right questions.

Reader Comments (6)

Mark 10:17-31 (NIV)
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” [18] “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good---except God alone. [19] You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ ” [20] “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” [21] Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” [22] At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. [23] Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” [24] The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! [25] It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” [26] The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” [27] Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” [28] Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” [29] “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel [30] will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields---along with persecutions---and in the age to come eternal life. [31] But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Mark 12:28-34 (NIV)
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” [29] “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. [30] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ [31] The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” [32] “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. [33] To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” [34] When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

Paul gave up ruling power, riches, Jewish doctrine and rituals that we might become disciples of his Teacher. That is a pretty strong Teacher student relationship. He is the scriptural example of evangelism to the world. He empathized with all he shared as did Jesus (both in a fullness of joy and of pain) and yet he was at peace trusting in Jesus.

Why would we choose to inherit eternal life, as in Luke 10:25-37, if we didn't think there was a whole eternity's worth of growing relationship at the Father's table? I would prefer to die forevermore than play a harp while sitting on a cloud forever and ever and ever and ever ...

Never have I mistakenly received an answer from an addressee that could have accidentally intercepted my question, because I sent it to the wrong address, since I began the salutation with, "My Father in Heaven".

Thanks Ray!

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHerm Halbach

"We have insisted that God speak to our values rather than hearing what is on his heart. Knowledge is easier to grasp. We long to master a subject, and in so doing have made Jesus the subject and ourselves the master."

"Correct doctrine is a useful map, but we should never mistake it for the actual territory it describes."

These are such wise, important points, Ray. They speak to the life-experiences I've been thinking a lot about these past two weeks—especially the things that divide us as Christians and the things that get in between us, as individuals, and God. Not surprisingly, I suspect all of these things are related, and the antidote is always the same: love, not knowledge.

August 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristin T. (@kt_writes)

Hi Herm: I love your statement about an eternity's worth of relationship at the Father's table. Well said. (BTW, you needn't cite the whole Biblical passage, most of us can look it up with just a click.)

Kristin: So true! In the end, love matters. Love also rejoices over the truth. Love is wise enough to know when to "take a stand' (rarely) and when to stand side-by-side with the beloved (always). peace!

August 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay Hollenbach

Kristin, as a casual observer :-) I would honestly say you're the poster child for Luke 10:25-37. When you lovingly think about something "for the last two weeks" you find truth because you've used your heart and mind to learn from the Teacher who knows what you need to know. That makes you the definition in all ways a disciple of Jesus Christ.

If all of us were His disciple rather than the disciple of Man's vanity we would see, feel and understand the fruits of His uniting us into one mind and one heart in the family of the Father.

Ray, I will use references rather than scripture from now on. I fear that some do not have the "click of their button" and yet are ready to join in discussion at our Family table. If the Holy Spirit wrote the entire law in our hearts and minds literacy becomes unnecessary to sibling sharing. Little Peter has as much to offer with an elementary education as does worldly Paul with a graduate degree. It does, though, depend a lot on whose text books we are quoting???

August 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHerm Halbach

[Regarding children] - "...we want them to love and trust us, but we do not require that they understand us in every respect." Great picture Ray! :]

August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Murray

Thanks, Stephen. God bless the Murrays!

August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay Hollenbach

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